Back to the south of France we go. Leaving Barcelona completely satisfied with Spain, we found ourselves driving back towards the south of France, this time, to Montpellier. Staying with our homie Ben Botica, we got out of the van for the first time in over a month. How good does a bed feel you ask? Pretty bloody good I tell ya! We planned to be here a week max and yet three weeks later, we we’re still there, enjoying our time visiting a friend and NOT being tourists.
Now your probably thinking… Montpellier? Where, why, what? Well I’ll let you in on a little secret… This place will far exceed your expectations, just like it did ours. Montpellier, according to the telegraph.co.uk, is the most seductive city in the French south – elegant, cultured and tolerant. As well as this, Montpellier is the biggest student city in France, so you can expect a lot going on to cater for the young people everywhere too.
Ok, lets rewind back a few steps…
Botica, yup, another mate from back home, living abroad playing rugby for the top side, in Montpellier. We weren’t going to give up the chance to drop in, say hello, watch a game and sink a few beers. And, to make the deal sweeter, he’d just adopted a blue staffie puppy called Lupe. Leah’s new best friend. We were lucky enough not only to have a bed to ourselves, but our own personal alarm clock too…Lupe.
In this blog post, you’ll find some less touristy activities you can get up to in Montpellier. We we’re well sick of tourist mode, sights and crowded places, so this guide will help those who are after something a little more local.
Right lets get into it:
Comedie – The centre of Montpellier. Good shopping, cafes, restaurants and bars. A nice spot to take a walk, or sit out on a table and drink coffee or wine. Getting lost is half the fun, so spend some time wandering all around here, eating the food, looking at the local markets, book fares, or even getting an authentic haircut at the barber like I did.
Montpellier Rugby – The perks of having a mate playing rugby overseas. Free tickets, free beers and a good old game of footy. We were two lucky kids this day. VIP tickets to Altrad stadium to watch Victor Vito and his troops from La Rochelle take on Montpellier. A different atmosphere to NZ footy, with the team brass band sitting high in the stands making a lot of noise. We indulged into the free alcohol like proper Kiwis and watched Ben come off the bench and win the game with a penalty kick on full-time. WOOOOHOOO!!! We were ecstatic! “That’s our mate” Leah was screaming. Get along to Altrad stadium, watch a game and see how they do it in France.
Odussyum mall – This is an inside, outside shopping mall in Montpellier and by far the best one for shopping. Gearing up for Chamonix, we bought ourselves some nice warm jackets and clothes. With the temperature also quickly dropping in Montpellier, it was well worth the purchase. Check out H&M, Pull and Bear, Zara, Berska and more. Your favourite European shops all in one place.
Inside the mall, you also have a rock climbing wall and what better way to get in some much needed exercise. Tons of different walls to choose from, Leah and I spent a few hours here one morning. No need for belaying, they have a seatbelt system so you can climb by yourself or race a mate. Reluctantly at the top, you just jump out and it drops suddenly, then locks on and slowly lowers you down. A fun and fit activity for only 13 euros each, including shoes and unlimited time.
Aigues Mortes – Wanting to go to Carcassonne, a fortified french village, but being too far from home, Leah found a better alternative. This place is surrounded by an old castle, which is very well maintained and pretty stunning. Something out of the Gladiator or Game Of Thrones. Inside the walls, is the local accommodation and restaurants in the town square, great place for a feed and a beer. On the west side, is a big lake which is coloured pink! Pink…because of the level of salt in the water. In the distance is the salt works and a huge mountain of salt. A nice backdrop behind the castle, you really feel like you’re far from home. Dog friendly, Lupe cruised with us, getting attention from everyone as he usually does.
The Coffee Club – For the best coffee in Montpellier, even TripAdvisor thinks so. Owned and operated by Nick and Gemma, an Irish couple and friends of Ben, we took Lupe and went for coffee on the our first day here. It soon became our local, with the best coffee in town and the friendliest staff. Theres some delishious food options too, including avo on toast, granola, some unbelievable cakes andepic smoothies. Try the green machine smoothie… INSANE. If you drop in, say hi to them for us and don’t forget to grab the Polaroid camera and leave your mark on the wall.
O’Carolan’s Irish pub – One of our favourite spots in Montpellier. You can almost guarantee that turning up to an Irish pub anywhere in the world, will have you meeting some cool people, getting as drunk as a skunk and having a conversation you don’t understand…with an Irishman. Try our favourite shot, the baby Guinness. And no, it’s not the beer. We were here for the test match between the All Blacks and Ireland, yes, the game where Ireland won. You can imagine the words being thrown around the bar.
Local bars around Comedie – After Bens win, we hit the Irish pub for some warm up drinks, met up with some of his boys and we’re ready to carry on. By this stage Leah and I were well on our way, little did we know, nothing kicks off until 2am and its only 9:30. Shiet. Theres plenty of cool bars in this area to check out. Try Barberousse, Circus and Los Parigos, then head on to the clubs. Rockshop seemed the place to be.
Pulp – A special mention for this wild club. As we sipped on Grey Goose and Jack Daniels in the booth (perks of having a rugby player friend), we watched yet another crazy European club scene in front of us. Not a bad place to be, we felt like high rollers. Fist pumping our way towards sunrise, I somehow started mixing my vodka and whiskey together. Not such a great idea when the bouncer chucks you out and into the ditch for somehow ending up on the floor of the club. Honestly someone tripped me up…well I think they did. None the less, it was a good chance to get in a taxi and figure out our way home. Pulp is a little way out of the comedie area so jump in a cab or get a willing sober driver.
Palavas Les Flots & the beach – A short 10/15 minute drive from Montpellier, you have the beach and a little fishing village named Palavas Les Flots. Leah actually spent a night here back in 2013 with her parents, so she was determined to take me back to have a look. Ben at rugby practise, we grabbed Lupe and drove over, passing dozens of flamingoes along the way to Leahs excitement. Very quiet at this time of year, a little too cold for the beach with not much happening in the seaside village, it was still charming and a good morning out for the 3 of us. In summer, the beach is packed with people sunbathing, swimming and doing water sports and the seaside town is packed with restaurants, boutique shops and gelato bars. Theres even some epic beach clubs around in summer, where Ben said he got easily carried away, long into the night.
Vegan night – Not a place or event in Montpellier, but something Leah and I hadn’t experienced before. We got the invite to join some of Ben’s mates for a Vegan night potluck. Try it out for yourself, a night away from meat wont hurt you and to be completely honest, some of the food was just as good. After doing this, then watching Leo DiCaprio’s “Before the Flood” Leah and I have decided on meat free Mondays. If this is a bit of you, try it out and share some of your recipes with us! So far we’ve made a chickpea curry and pumpkin, spinach spaghetti and I tell ya what, I didn’t even miss the meat and I love meat!
After 3 weeks chilling in Montpellier, it was sadly time to move on towards the French Alps. We have 3 days to get to Chamonix and move into our new flat, so we packed up, said our goodbyes and hit the road. Back in Cassie for a 3 day roadie in the French Alps sounds good to me!
Montpellier treated us well and I’m sure it’ll do the same for you. Get out there, get involved and experience the french culture. Shout out to Ben and Lupe for putting up with us, see you in the snow!
Bryn | free & addicted